Examining Cultural Barriers to Teaching Anti-Racist History in the Rural U.S.


  • Elizabeth Washington 1.352.273.4236
  • Travis Seay Missouri State University




anti-racist education, history education, African American History, teaching about race, anti-Black racial violence, historical memory, rural social studies


Although research on teaching about race and racism in rural schools is scant, a handful of studies indicate that race matters a great deal in rural history education. It matters particularly in terms of divergent cultural memories and uses of history (cf. Nordgren, 2016; Seay, 2019) that students and teachers may bring to the classroom. This paper summarizes studies of rural white history teachers who contended with narratives of white dominance in the school and community (cf. Castagno, 2014; Leonardo, 2009, 2013; Vaught, 2011). The teachers faced unforeseen difficulties engaging students in sensitive topics, such as racialized violence and other historical systems of inequality that remain in the present.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Washington, 1.352.273.4236

Elizabeth Yeager Washington is Professor and Coordinator of Secondary Education and Social Studies Education, an Affiliate Faculty Member of the Teachers, Schools, and Society EdD Program, and an Affiliate Faculty Member of the UF Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. She earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin. She served as editor of Theory and Research in Social Education from 2001-2007. She teaches courses in secondary social studies methods, critical democratic citizenship education, and effective teaching and classroom management. Her research interests include civic education, critical democratic citizenship education, the teaching of social issues, and the teaching and learning of history. 

Travis Seay, Missouri State University

Dr. Travis L. Seay, Assistant Professor of Social Studies and History Education, teaches in the Bachelor of Science (BSED) and Master of Science (MSED) programs. He works with historians and other scholars, education administrators, and area schools to help prepare the next generation of social studies educators.

As a student and teacher of history, Seay’s interests focus on social movements, including the history of youth activism in the United States during the 20th and early 21st centuries. He is especially interested in ideological/cultural processes of political expression and social contestation during this period. These interests inform his research in the field of social studies education, especially history education. In particular, Seay (pronounced as "see") uses the research literature to conceptualize dynamics of historical narration and counter narration through raced and gendered lenses and interrogates these aspects of sociopolitical knowledge in light of data on student/teacher interactions, teacher and student interviews, curriculum content, and historical context.

As a teacher educator, Dr. Seay works with student teachers and in-service teachers to address key elements of critical pedagogy, historical thinking, and curricular decision making. These elements include classroom management, developing dialogue on enduring social issues, grappling with race and other hard topics in history, and laboring to develop broad social perspectives with students across diverse schools.

An alumnus of Missouri State University (MA, History, ’06), Seay previously taught high school and middle school social studies in rural Florida and urban New York. His teaching career began in 1998, shortly after graduation from Florida State University. He received his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Florida in 2019.



How to Cite

Washington, E., & Seay, T. (2024). Examining Cultural Barriers to Teaching Anti-Racist History in the Rural U.S. Annals of Social Studies Education Research for Teachers, 5(1), 17–24. https://doi.org/10.29173/assert66